A Review of the Indie Royale “Mash Bundle”
I love these little indie bundles. There’s like ten different ones and they keep having new packages every couple of weeks. Thanks to inflation and joining forces with Steam, video games are cheaper and easier to (legally) acquire than ever before. We’d all be cautious about blowing $20 on a single game we knew nothing about (there’s no way any rich people are reading this), but $5.50 USD for five games? That’s a fantastic deal even if the games turn out to be junk, and they rarely do. And Indie Royale probably has the best record out of any of them.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People
Homestar Runner is still the internet’s best source for safe but clever humor (yes, I know it hasn’t updated in two years). This game has exactly what you expect: basic puzzles, obvious but still somehow funny jokes, and stuff that’s weird but not so weird that it might offend somebody. It is linear and saves automatically. You should be able to beat this straightforward adventure game and its mini-games without any trouble.
I’m glad that in today’s adventure games you have one icon that does everything as opposed to the 1990s form that involved cycling through the options to look, talk, take, smell, and grok every object you find, as usually only one of them will actually progress the game and the rest are time-wasters with throwaway narration attached. You may argue that this oversimplifies the genre (just as mouse icons simplified the act of typing commands into a parser) but I find that it streamlines the genre to the point where I know I can use or combine objects in order to continue the game without having to try dozens of superfluous combinations.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People might not be a masterpiece, but it’s pleasing to play and competently made. Not so much a game as an excuse to pour out jokes into the reader’s ears. Comes with the all five episodes, each with a separate installer for convenience.
Guns of Icarus Online
A first-person shooter in which you play not a grunting bald white man with a Liefeldian gun, but a member of a crew on a ship that has rad air fights. You can run around on the deck of your steampunk dirigible, manning several guns, making repairs, or controlling the helm to move your airship ponderously. It’s a fascinating idea for a game but not quite the Super Sentai amalgamation I was hoping for. It is greatly entertaining, though, to play as a team and not try to Rambo your way to victory, as that’s not an option in Guns of Icarus Online.
Customization of ships (which is freely available) is moderate; you have three guns to mount on your ship and a dozen or so to choose from. Each of the three classes also has several items to choose from in order to maintain the ship, and you can gain levels to unlock more stuff. Character clothing (which costs real money) is more elaborate, but that’s Steam gaming for you. They’ll try to take your money but they’re polite about it, unlike most game companies who make you dig into your wallet if you want a stovepipe hat or clownshoes.
This one’s multiplayer only, hence the name; you’re not only encouraged but required to work with other players to fight your enemies. OK, maybe some hotshot with thousands of hours of experience could run a ship by himself and win against competent foes, but for the most part it’s a group effort. Guns of Icarus Online could easily have been an add-on to Team Fortress 2, but it stands on its own. I’m gonna play it some more and maybe do a full review sometime when I have more experience with it.
Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise
Despite the generic-sounding name, this is a pretty good beat-em-up that owes more to Ninja Gaiden than to Dynasty Warriors. You have to use the right attacks at the right moments (it pops up with the right button to push, but you aren’t forced to do them and it’s far from a dullard’s QTE) or face slaughter. It teaches you quickly that button-mashing will get you killed because enemies will defend, counter-attack, throw, and do all sorts of nasty stuff to you if you try to slap the controller/keyboard like a bongo. Generic Asian martial artists will swarm you and attack from all directions (some with weapons or sorcery), refusing to patiently wait for you to finish your current opponent. Unlike most 3D beat-em-ups, this one requires skill to complete, and that makes it far greater.
Much like, say, God Hand, I always feel challenged but never insulted while playing Kung Fu Strike. If I die, it is my fault and not the camera’s or the enemy’s dumb undodgeable super move. Combat is difficult but rewarding, and that’s what makes for the best kind of game.
This is the only one of the games in this bundle that I enjoyed playing to the extent where I forgot I was reviewing it. Quite a good game that is clearly superior to the rest, even the previous one.
Decent 2D action game where you play as a single-eyed orb that bounces through water-and-trap-filled tunnels. You have a limited oxygen supply that can be further reduced by bumping into non-fatal enemies or using a speed boost. Judicious use of the boost is necessary for almost every level; spamming it will make you too hard to control and cause you to run out of air before you can reach the exit, whereas using it too sparingly will result in your swift death at the hands of crushing walls and enemies. This feature makes it more interesting than the typical platformer due to requiring the player to manage both their four-way movements through the tubes as well as their oxygen levels. It’s an interesting mechanic, though not enough to carry the game by itself.
The infinite amount of lives makes even the hardest levels in the game too easy to overcome, and KRUNCH is definitely beatable by those with minimal skills. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to you; there are a lot of ball-bustingly hard platformers out there if you’re looking for more of a challenge, but KRUNCH isn’t laughably easy like Fez but not arduous enough for my tastes.
The graphics are simple, looking kind of like a muddy MSX game, but easily recognizable as having been an indie game made in the past half-dozen years. Destructoid has a decent review (except where the author says that Super Meat Boy had good controls) that goes into more detail than this little blurb. The third-best game in the bundle.
When I first opened this game I thought I was going to play an action-puzzle game, something like King Arthur’s World or The Lost Vikings for the SNES. What I got instead was a turn-based strategy game in which you control stereotypical fantasy dwarves, dig tunnels, and get loot. You do this by choosing a level and outfit of five dwarves then taking turns leading them through caves to find ore and kill monsters (mostly to find ore). The strategy comes from your choice of classes for the dwarves, your starting location, and your understanding of the general layouts and relics available. Unfortunately, what I played was artless; compared to the greats of the genre such as Civilization this game so vanilla that the Barenaked Ladies wouldn’t even enjoy it. The simplicity combined with effectively infinite time means easy victory. It’s more like a shareware game from the early 1990s than anything with complexity or skill.
Delve Deeper has a nice (optional) tutorial for those of us who suck at strategy games (to this day I haven’t beaten StarCraft’s campaign mode). It also has the option for up to four human players, something that should extend its lifespan significantly beyond its sparse single-player offerings. After all, a human can utilize superior strategies to computers in the majority of situations, and there’s no information on the screen that needs to be kept hidden from other players, so using a single computer monitor works perfectly. Being a cave-dwelling hermit I was unable to play this mode, but the more socially inclined may be able to wring some enjoyment out of it, assuming your friends are also interested in strategy games.
Three alright games and two good games for cheap. The Mash Bundle ends in six days, so pick it up now if I was able to sell you on it. Kung Fu Strike and Guns of Icarus Online are entertaining games that make the (hilariously low) entry price certainly worthwhile, though the rest of the bundle is middling. Long live the indie bundle, may it reign for centuries.